The Olympic Dream
Four years could sound like a long time, and in some cases it is. Similarly, you can do a quick 4hr ride and also a 4hr ride that feels like an all day affair. For me, looking back from August last year to 4 years previous, it seemed a very short time ago that I was camped out in the lounge room with a couple of mates watching the London Olympics on TV. At that point, riding was very much balanced with school and social activities but I knew deep down I wanted to be a bike rider, however far away that dream may have seemed.
I'd planned to go to uni straight out of college and I went for about 3 days, before realising the course I was enrolled in wasn't even what I wanted to do. Quickly pulling the pin; circumstances would then have it that I was having a gap year. I then made last minute arrangements to go to Oceania MTB Champs in NZ the following week and the Cairns World Cup later that year which I previously hadn't committed to, assuming I'd be bogged down in study. I also went about planning a 6 week trip to Europe with some other U23 Aussie mountain bikers.
I returned to Europe for a second trip later in the year for the World Cup final and World Champs. The first national round in December later that year (2014) I finished 2nd behind Dan McConnell after he rode away from me on the last lap.
The next round Dan was absent and I won, making me even hungrier and more motivated as I reaffirmed the belief in myself.
I went on the win the National Elite MTB Series overall, National and Oceania U23 MTB Champs before heading overseas to compete. The first race was UCI HC category race nestled in the beautiful Austrian Alps. I was sleeping in the boot of a camper van for that race, hand washing my kit at a nearby servo, and riding 2km to the nearest showers. Not ideal compared to the support of nearly everyone else at the race but this sort of thing is far from uncommon for an Australian MTBer competing in Europe.
For the remainder of 2015 and 2016 I don't reckon there was a day I didn't think about the possibility of qualifying for the Olympics and made sure I was doing everything right to make that dream a reality. Upon reflection this is not always a good thing, getting the work done and everything alongside it is vitally important but having the ability to switch off is too. I learnt the hard way, overcooking things at one point by training far beyond what my coach had prescribed, leaving me so fatigued that walking 20m took every ounce of energy. I recovered quite quickly thankfully!
As selection time neared I was asked that 'if' I was selected for MTBing, would I be prepared to do the Road Race in a support role for Richie Porte. Many thoughts and questions naturally raced through my mind at the enormity and surprise of being asked but the answer was of course a resounding yes.
I was selected - on my way to Rio for not one, but two events.
N.B. For the Olympics each country is entitled to a certain number of spots across all cycling disciplines, which they qualify based on their country ranking. Australia had decided to take an extra track endurance rider which meant one less road rider, it was then me, a mountain biker that got the call up to fill the spot. This as not the first time this has happened, the German team did a similar thing for London 2012.
Upon being told I was selected, I felt an enormous amount of joy and overwhelming excitement, as well as a bit of relief - the graft had paid off in spades.
See back at the social club next Wednesday for part 2,